Competition was steep at the FIRST 2012 Championships in St. Louis last month, where some unbelievable teen scientists and engineers shared their groundbreaking innovations with the world. But one project that particularly stood out was created by four girls from Rochester, New York -- two of whom donned colored wigs for the occasion.
The group of girl scouts -- whose ages range from 11 to 14 -- created an experiment that could change the lives of thousands of women in Latin America. When the students heard from a member of the Peace Corps that Nicaraguan women experience higher rates of miscarriage and disease because they drink unpasteurized milk, the foursome made it their mission to find a solution.
After a great deal of research and hard work, the Hippie Pandas came up with a cheap, accessible altenative to the pasturization process that uses one surprising ingredient: beeswax. Their 'solar pasteurizer' has already been put into use in Nicaragua, and at the Championships, the girls were even asked to implement the project in another country.
"One thing we definitely learned is how dangerous raw milk can be and how pasteurization helps," said one of the team members. "We also learned that as kids, we can help people around the world to live safer lives."
More than 600 teams from 32 countries participated in the competition this year. Another high-ranking team -- this one in the robotics division -- was the North Brunswick High School robotics club, who invented a robot that can slam-dunk from center court.